We all want to give the best to our children and raise them up to be bright and smart. To ensure that they get a good head start during the early years, we spend much time and effort in picking the right school and enrichment programmes for them.
But do take note that as a parent, you have the power to boost your child’s learning potential by developing a love for reading from young. While the benefits of having both mum and dad read to their children are plentiful, a recent study by researchers from Harvard University in the United States reveals that children benefit more when their father read bedtime stories to them.
As reported by The Telegraph, the study found that dads lead their children to “imaginative discussions” and are more instrumental to their children’s language development during the early years because of the way they read to their children. Dr. Elisabeth Duursma, the study leader, found that girls benefited more when read to by a male. “The impact is huge – particularly if dads start reading to kids under the age of two,” she explains. “Reading is [often] seen as a female activity and kids seem to be more tuned in when their dad reads to them – it’s special.”
However, a poll conducted among 1,000 mums and dads by Book Trust, an independent British literacy charity, found that young parents are reading less to their children compared to the older generations. Among the respondents, 19% of dads under 25 said they enjoyed a bedtime read with their children, while 78% of older fathers said it was their favourite part of the day.
To bring up the numbers, author and comedian David Walliams has led an initiative in the United Kingdom to emphasise the benefits of fathers reading to their children for just 20 minutes a day. Here are some reasons why more dads should take heed and snuggle up with a good book with their children:
1. They get their children to think further
Having mum and dad take turns to read bedtime stories has been found to improve children’s language and cognitive skills. While mums often focus on the characters’ feelings and ask factual questions, dads tend to link the narrative to something which their child can relate to.
“Dad is more likely to say something line, ‘Oh look, a ladder. Do you remember when I had that ladder in my truck?” Dr. Duursma explains. “That is great for children’s language development because they have to use their brains more. It’s more cognitively challenging.”
2. They help to develop a love of reading in their children
Children learn best from mimicking the words and actions of their parents. So, if you are hoping to nurture a love for reading from young, it would be helpful if you put this good habit into practice yourself.
A research published by the British Journal of Educational Psychology on the role of early father involvement and its impact on children’s educational attainment showed “a positive relationship between the amounts of literacy fathers engage in for their personal use and their children’s reading test.” In this case, dads who are seen reading a lot during their free time send out positive signs to their children that reading is a beneficial and enjoyable thing to do.
3. They share a special bond with their children
While the Harvard study pinpointed the positive influence of dads’ reading – particularly on their daughters – previous research have shown how reading strengthens the bond between fathers and both their sons and daughters.
According to a study by the National Literacy Trust entitled ‘Why Fathers Matter to their Children’s Literacy’, dads who do not get to spend a lot of time at home with their kids due to work reported reading as a major way to develop a unique relationship with their children. Reading to children opens up a world of opportunity for dads to get to know their children on a deeper level and to find out what they think or feel about various topics. This special activity also creates a sense of security in children as they snuggle up for quality time with their dads – and a good book.
Dads who read to their children regularly feel more relaxed, and this in turn creates a perfect balance in parenting. More details on this on the next page.